Well, tonight Janet and I are in London. I realize that it is 5 hours earlier back in Indiana, but we are getting ready to call it a night, and I did not want to miss a chance to post since I had internet access.
We arrived today around 9:00 am London Time (4:00 am back in Indiana) and took a taxi through the city to our hotel. After an hour of rest, we set out on foot to re-visit some of the sites Janet and I independently visited back in 1970, when we were both here, although not at the same time.
Although we went to Buckingham Palace (we could not get inside as the Queen is in residence); and many other places, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and of course, Harrod’s, the real highlight of the day was our visit to Westminster Abbey. At first, we went to Westminster Cathedral, which was the church our concierge thought we wanted to visit, but after seeing it, beautiful as it was, we decided to go on and visit the Abbey. After having come all this way, I didn’t want to end up three blocks away from our destination and regret it the rest of my life. So we headed up the street to the “other” Westminster. You know – the place where William and Cate were recently married. I say this only to identify the building to those of you who may not know of it, because it is so much grander than I ever imagined.
It holds special significance on so many levels. For example, more than 3000 British monarchs, poets, military leaders and scientists are buried there. I was amazed. And one week after it’s completion in late Dec., 1065, Edward the Confessor, who took on Westminster on as his special project, died, and became the first person buried there in January, 1066 – the same year that William the Conqueror held his coronation there. There is even a specific chair has been used for each coronation since 1308. These British really know how to remember the past and keep traditions alive! And I found it interesting that Charles Darwin is buried there – seems like an oxymoron – Darwin being buried in a church.
Mary Queen of Scots is also buried there; as well as numerous other well-known people; and some not so well known. In fact, the British Unknown Soldier was buried there in 1920. If you watched the recent wedding, it is the only tomb in Westminster that nobody is allowed to walk on – and the one that Cate stepped around as she entered the Church and headed down the aisle to her wedding. Remember? All other floor tombs can be walked over – in fact, it is expected. And many of the monarchs lie in side chambers in elaborate displays of honor to their lives. Some of the stones are so worn that it is now difficult to read the inscriptions on them.
About half of the Old Testament and most of the New Testament for the King James Version were translated within these very walls; the project was finished back in May, 1611 – 400 years ago this May. And as you know, almost all of my seminary work had to be done with this version. So, suffice it to say that I really enjoyed our time there today. In fact, we did not even take the audio tour. We just walked through and read the tombstones. I didn’t want our space to be invaded by the drone of some faceless voice as I pored over history; and in our own private way, Janet and I enjoyed the solitude together. It was very special.
The two most touching things that happened today, though, had nothing to do with the building; but prayers. At precisely 3:00 pm, one of the clergy from Westminster entered the pulpit and asked that people observe silence while he prayed. He explained that this happened every day at 3:00; and I was amazed at how many people stopped and sat down in the nearest seats they could find. It was silent. I couldn’t believe it – with so many people renouncing religion, and specifically Christianity, I was stunned as several thousand people in the main church sat (I only saw one person standing – trying to find a place to sit)…..while the minister prayed a beautiful prayer written by St. Benedict; asking for God’s grace and that we may have understanding about living together in peace and harmony. And then, the clergyman said that he was heading to a small chapel where he invited people for individual personal prayer time! How awesome is that! Janet and I just sat in silence and took in the moment; listening to a person publicly pray in a church that has been there for more than 1050 years.
Too soon, our time was at an end. As we headed out the door, we passed the coronation chair, and as I turned to walk out, I noticed an inscription on the doorway that caught my eye. It simply said, “That all may live in peace”, and was clearly a reference that echoed the sentiments of St. Benedict’s prayer that we had heard minutes earlier. So tonight, I have chosen a verse from Peter. That’s because I learned that the full name of the place we visited today is The Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster; better known as Westminster Abbey. In 1 Peter 2:17, we are told, “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” Just seems fitting to me tonight – especially after hearing the prayer this afternoon.
So my encouragement tonight is to reach out and attempt to live the life that Christ wants for His followers. Try to live in harmony, and peace, with all people. And my prayer is that you will love the brotherhood of believers at an even deeper level – and have an understanding of the kind of commitment that patrons of Westminster have shown for more than 1000 years. If only we could do everything possible to make sure that the legacy of Christ continues another 1000 years from now. And that all may live in peace….